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by Gideon Marcus

And the Free World exhales. At long last, an American has orbited the Earth. This morning, Astronaut John Glenn ascended to the heavens on the back of an Atlas nuclear missile. He circled the globe three times before splashing down in the Atlantic Ocean.

It is impossible to understate what this means for us. The Soviets have been ahead of us in the Space Race since it started in 1957: First satellite, first lunar probe, first space traveler. Last year, the best we could muster was a pair of 15 minute cannonball shots into the edges of space. For two months, Glenn has gone again and again into his little capsule and lain on his back only to emerge some time later, disappointed by technical failure or bad weather. Each time, the clock ticked; would the Soviets trump us with yet another spectacular display of technological prowess?

But this morning, everything was fine – the weather, the booster, the spacecraft, and the astronaut. As I went to sleep last night, Glenn woke up. He had the traditional low residue breakfast of orange juice, toast, eggs over-easy, fillet mignon, and Postum, before suiting up and entering the capsule. That was at 5 AM his time (2 AM mine). For five hours, the patient Colonel waited as his Atlas rocket, only recently tamed sufficiently for human use, was prepared and tested for flight.



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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by Gideon Marcus

January has been a frustrating month in the Space Race. We are no closer to matching the Soviets in the manned competition, much less beating them, and our unmanned shots have been a disappointment, too. That said, it's not all bad news in January's round-up: stick to it through the end, and you'll see cause for cheer!

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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November 1961 been an exciting month for space buffs with several sequels to exciting missions as well as one brand new satellite.



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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by Rosemary Benton

It's a great leap forward for the United States. This morning, October 28th 1961, one can open the newspaper and learn about yesterday's launch of the Saturn C-1. Some of us even saw the live coverage of the launch on television, watching as the giant rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral in Florida and flew 95 miles into the air before plunging into the Atlantic Ocean. A rocket this powerful has never been launched before, and I can only imagine that the scientific community must be trembling like the ground beneath Saturn C-1's S-1 first-stage cluster of nine tanks and eight engines.



It was, quite simply, the biggest rocket ever launched. By far.

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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It's is a red-letter day for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and for America as a whole. For today, we finally got a Mercury space capsule into orbit! The flight, dubbed "Mercury-Atlas 4," began this morning in a blast of fire on a Florida launchpad and lasted one hour and fifty minutes. At its conclusion, the Mercury capsule deorbited and parachuted safely into the Atlantic ocean. By all standards, it was a picture-perfect mission.



Except that there wasn't anyone in the capsule...

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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[August 17, 1961] Voyages of Discovery (Explorer 12)



Every so often, a discovery comes along that shatters our conception of the universe. Galileo turned his telescope to the heavens and discovered moons around Jupiter – suddenly, it was clear that Earth was not the center of everything. Roentgen and Curie showed that matter was not entirely stable, leading to our modern understanding of physics (and the challenges that come with the harnessing of atomic energy). Columbus sailed to find Asia; instead, he was the first to put the Americas on European maps.

Until 1958, space was believed to be a sterile place, a black void in which the planets and stars whirled. Maybe there was an odd meteoroid or two, and far away, one might find a big cloud of gas, but otherwise space was synonymous with vacuum.

Then Explorer 1, America's first space mission, went into orbit around the Earth. Its particle detectors, designed to measure the free-floating electrons and cosmic rays whizzing around up there, quickly became saturated. Girdling the planet were hellish streams of energy, particles ionized by the sun and trapped by the Earth's magnetic field.



Overnight, our idea of space was revolutionized; a few scientists had speculated as to the existence of the Belts, but the idea was hardly mainstream. More probes were sent up to determine the nature of these belts. Pioneer 5 went beyond far into interplanetary space and sent back news of a solar atmosphere that extended far beyond the shiny yellow bits – a field of particles and rays that went beyond even Earth's orbit. Other probes returned maps of the turbulent region where the sun's field met Earth's.

Space was hardly empty – it was a new ocean filled with waves, eddies, and unknowns to be explored.



Yesterday, Explorer 12 zoomed into orbit, NASA's latest voyager to ply the charged sea of space.

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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For a few bright weeks, it looked as if the United States might be gaining in the Space Race. Now, the Reds have pulled forward again with a most astonishing announcement: their second cosmonaut, a Major Gherman Titov, orbited the Earth in his "Vostok 2" for an entire day before coming safely back to Earth this morning.

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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By Larry Klaes

After three failed attempts just this week, yesterday (July 21, 1961), astronaut Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom finally became this nation’s second (and the world's third) man to reach outer space. Grissom achieved another sort of milestone when his spacecraft unexpectedly sank after splashdown – and almost took the astronaut with it to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean!



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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My brother, Lou, used to tell me that the only way to beat a bully is to not fight fair. Jump the guy when he’s not looking, and fight like there are no rules. That’ll teach him that you’re nuts and not worth messing with.

He learned this lesson honestly. When Lou was in the navy, he immediately got flak for being Jewish. Someone tried to steal his bunk; Lou rammed the guy’s head into the wall. After that, whenever someone tried to take advantage of Lou, by cutting in the chow line, for instance, another sailor would restrain the miscreant. “Don’t do it! That’s Marcus. He’s crazy. He’ll kill you!”

The problem is that these days, there are just two kids on the block: The USA and the USSR. Each one’s the bully in the other’s eyes. If the Russians decide they can get in a sucker punch, they just might do it to get us out of the way, once and for all.

We have the same option, of course, but it is the avowed intention of our leaders that America will never start a nuclear war. The Soviets have not made such a pledge.

That’s why we have invested so much time and money in developing a strategic nuclear force. We want the Russians to know that we can strike back if they launch an attack, so that any attempt at a preemptive blow would be an act of suicide.

But we can’t retaliate if the first indication we have a Soviet attack is the sprouting of atomic mushrooms over our cities and missile fields.

To that end, we recently finished the construction of the Distant Early Warning (DEW) line, a string of radar installations along the northern coasts of Alaska and Canada. These can detect a missile some ten minutes from target. Still not a very good window of time in which to order a counter-strike.

Enter Midas...


(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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by Larry Klaes

[The Space Race continues to run at an ever-accelerating pace. To keep up with all the new developments, I've tapped my friend and fellow professional space historian to tell us a very special program that just might score for the United States in the next inning…]



President Kennedy declared three weeks ago before Congress that America shall make the bold step of “sending a man to the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth” before the end of this decade. This has given a much needed – and quite literal – boost to the American space program.

It couldn’t have come at a better time. Since that day in October of 1957 when our geopolitical and space rivals, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or USSR for short, lofted that 184-pound silvery sphere they called Sputnik 1 into Earth orbit, the Communists have handily outpaced us on virtually all key fronts of the Space Race. First animal in orbit. First man in orbit. First probe to Venus. First victories in the race to that big golden prize in our night sky, the Moon.

In one year alone, 1959, the Soviets sent the first space probe flying past the Moon and on into solar orbit. This was followed by the first manmade vehicle to impact another world, with their Luna 2 littering the lunar dust with pennants engraved with the Soviet Coat of Arms. The USSR rounded out their lunar triumphs of 1959 with a circumlunar imaging mission that revealed the hitherto unseen lunar farside.



So which Superpower will be the first to orbit the Moon? The first to land, with robots and then with manned spacecraft? Experts in various fields might understandably side with the Soviet Union, including those in the West. In a mission-by-mission comparison, America’s efforts at exploring and conquering the Moon pale.

All of the first three Air Force Pioneer lunar probes, fell short of their celestial goal. Of the next two, made to order by Jet Propulsion Laboratories in Pasadena, California (JPL), Pioneer 4 alone escaped the confines of Earth’s gravity and headed into interplanetary space in March 1959. Unfortunately, the small conical craft was many thousands of miles too far away for its scientific instruments to examine the Moon and slipped on to join its Soviet counterpart, Luna 1, in solar orbit.

Then it was the Air Force’s turn again with their advanced Atlas Able Pioneers. All four of them failed. Spectacularly.

And so, back to JPL. They have a new robotic lunar exploration program named Ranger that they are confident will return some of NASA’s prestige in space and ensure that one day soon the Stars and Stripes will be standing tall on the lunar surface -- before the Hammer and Sickle.


(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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I've been asked why it is that, as a reviewer of science fiction, I devote so much ink to the Space Race and other scientific non-fiction. I find it interesting that fans of the first would not necessarily be interested in the second, and vice versa.

There are three reasons non-fiction figures so prominently in this column:

4) I like non-fiction;
5) All the science fiction mags have a non-fiction column;
6) Science fiction without science fact is without context.

Let me expand on Point 3. Science is different from all other philosophies because of its underpinning of reality. My wife and I had this debate in graduate school many years ago with our fellow students. They felt that, so long as their systems were logical, their views on how the universe worked were just as valid as any others – certainly more valid that lousy ol' science, with its dirty experiments and boring empiricism.

They're wrong, of course. Religion and philosophy have discerned little about the natural universe except by accident or where the practitioners have utilized some version of the scientific method. The fact is, there is a real universe out there, and it pushes back at our inquiries. That "friction" is what allows us to experiment as to its nature. It's why we have wonders like airplanes, nuclear power, the polio vaccine, the contraceptive pill.

Similarly, science fiction is nowheresville without an underpinning of science. Science fiction is not make believe – it is extrapolation of scientific trends. Even fantasy makes use of science; ask Tolkien about his rigorous application of linguistics in his construction of Elvish. It is important that my readers keep abreast of the latest science fact so they can better understand and appreciate the latest science fiction.

And it goes both ways – the science of today is directly influenced and inspired by the dreams of yesterday. Without science fiction, science is a lusterless endeavor. Jules Verne showed us space travel long before Nikita Khruschev.



Thus ends the awfully long preface to today's article, which as anyone might guess, covers America's first manned space mission. Yesterday morning, May 5, 1961, Commander Alan B. Shepard rocketed to a height of nearly 190 kilometers in the Mercury spacecraft he christened "Freedom 7." His flight duplicated that of chimpanzee Ham's February trip: a sub-orbital jaunt that plopped him in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. He flew for just 15 minutes.

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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They say "You're only as old as you feel," which explains why Asimov pinches co-eds at conventions.

I've been asked why someone of my advanced age is into the bop and rock and billy that the kids are into these days, when I should be preferring the likes of Glenn Miller or Caruso. Truth be told, I do like the music of my youth, the swing of the 30s and the war years (no, I didn't serve. I was 4F. My brother, Lou, was in five Pacific invasions, though.) But there's something to the new music, something new. I think Lou's kid, David, really turned me onto this stuff – the Cubano and the Rock n' Roll. Music beyond whitebread and Lawrence Welk.

It makes me feel...young.



I've got a full month of space news to catch up, in large part because I was remiss around the end of last month thanks to Wondercon. Of course, Gagarin's flight eclipsed all else in significance for a while, but there is more to off-planet exploration than men in capsules.

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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It's hardly kosher, but it's certainly good news: a Redstone rocket launched the first piloted Mercury capsule on a 15-minute flight into space. No, we didn't put a man in orbit--we sent a three-year old chimpanzee named Ham on a vertical jaunt over the West Atlantic.

(see more at Galactic Journey!)

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